Emmy Noether: The Genius Mathematician That Almost Wasn’t

Google Doodle today marked the 133rd birthday of prized mathematician Emmy Noether.

Born in Erlangen, Germany in 1882, Emmy Noether has been heralded for the invaluable contributions she made to group theory as well as theoretical physics.

Today’s Google Doodle featured a collection of circles, each of them representing a different branch of math and physics to which Emmy Noether devoted her tireless research, Google Doodle artist Sophie Diao said.

Diao praised Emmy Noether for her eponymous Noether’s Theorem, noting its “revolutionary impact on the way people view physics,” and heralded Noether’s courage to pursue her career goals despite academia being a fiercely male-dominated arena.

Following Emmy Noether’s death in 1935, Albert Einstein wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times in which he praised the accomplishments of the prized mathematician, referring to Noether as “the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.”

“In the realm of algebra, in which the most gifted mathematicians have been busy for centuries,” Einstein wrote, “she discovered methods which have proved of enormous importance in the development of the present-day younger generation of mathematicians.”

The fact that Emmy Noether was even afforded the opportunity to pursue her vocation of mathematician is itself cause for celebration. Noether overcame an astounding number of obstacles in order to impart her knowledge onto others.

For instance, despite being prohibited from taking classes at the University of Erlangen, Noether audited courses for two years before finally being permitted to her doctoral studies. She also taught at the university for seven years without receiving any pay, International Business Times notes.

Noether encountered further roadblocks when she applied to teach at the University of Gottingen. In post-WWI Germany, having female faculty member in a major post-secondary institution was unthinkable.

“What will our soldiers think when they return to the university and find that they are required to learn at the feet of a woman?” one faculty member asked, according to the IBT.

Nonetheless, University of Gottingen professor and fellow mathematical icon David Hilbert campaigned for Emmy Noether to be hired as a faculty member, which she finally was in 1919.

“Noether’s advancements not only reflect her brilliance but also her determination in the face of adversity,” Google Doodle artist Sophie Diao wrote of Emmy Noether. “There weren’t any obstacles that would stop Noether from her studies.”

Diao’s words remind us that Emmy Noether’s perseverance in ensuring her ideas were shared was as invaluable to society as the ideas themselves.

[Photo Credit: New York Times]